We can all agree that reducing sugar in your diet is essential to weight loss, and an overall healthy lifestyle. Nothing could be worse for you than white table sugar. But with so many sugar alternatives available, it can be hard to know which ones to chose. Should you go with low, or no calorie artificial sweeteners that claim to be healthy for diabetics? Or would it be better to opt for natural, but higher calorie sweeteners like honey or agave?
In general, I recommend using natural sweeteners whenever possible. Splenda and similar products may seem attractive because of their low calorie claims. But because they are man made, they often have side effects which can be unpleasant, and medically harmful. Stomach issues, like diarrhea and bloating are common with excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners. More seriously, scientific studies have linked artificial sweeteners to severe conditions like an increased risk of leukemia and heart disease. Artificial sweeteners can be found in many commonly consumed products, including diet sodas, cookies, cakes, milkshakes, and foods marketed specifically to diabetics. Be aware of their prevalence and try to avoid them whenever possible.
Don’t worry though-there are many natural sweeteners to chose from as well, including agave, honey, and maple sugar. These natural sweeteners are a delicious addition to a breakfast, dessert or as a sweet twist to coffee or tea. Keep in mind though that they are high calorie and you should use them sparingly, as a treat. Honey is made is made by bees from the nectar of flowers and can be produced from a variety of plants including clover and blackberry, for a unique variety of flavors. Honey has anti-microbial properties and can help with a sore throat. It is also high in anti-oxidants. Agave has gained in popularity in recent years, from obscurity as a plant grown in Mexico used to make tequila. Agave is a natural sweetener, and because it is so sweet, you can get a very strong flavor from a small quantity. Agave is known for it’s low glycemic index, meaning that when consumed, it spikes your blood sugar less than other sweeteners. It is metabolized in the same way as table sugar, however. Maple syrup, derived from the maple tree, is lower in calories than honey, and has many essential minerals including manganese and zinc. Both of these minerals are extremely helpful in a high functioning immune system.
With so many tasty and natural substitutes, it’s easy to reduce white sugar from your diet. Challenge yourself to experiment with other kinds of sweeteners, but by all means, keep it natural. If you are unsure which natural sweetener is right for you, don’t hesitate to ask your Health Plus, Oregon medical weight loss practitioner about it.